The Bb Ally Tour does the LMS Conference Trifecta


On the edtech calendar, July has become “LMS conference month,” with Instructure, D2L, and Blackboard all hosting their annual conferences three weeks in a row. And since we’re now working with institutions using all three of those LMSs, the Bb Ally Tour hit the road after the 4th of July for Long Beach, California, and returned home three weeks later having covered 6,700 miles toasting the Heroes of IncluCity. 

InstructureCon: Cruisin’ on a Learnin’ Safari 

We were on a Learnin’ Safari in Southern California for InstructureCon, and the whole beach theme reminded me of an anecdote shared with me by Professor Karl Giulian at Atlantic Cape Community College. Karl talked about going to the nearby Jersey Shore with his family, and how they would always travel a little further to a beach with wheelchair access because it was easier to pull their wagon full of beach supplies through the sand. For him, it served as a reminder about how accessibility benefits everyone, and helped motivate him to prioritize accessibility best practices in his teaching. 

During our rocking Bb Ally Happy Hour at InstructureCon, we had the chance to catch-up with people we met on the Tour, like Leslie Reeves of American River College. We reconnected with Community Heroes like Christopher Phillips of Utah State University, who presented on Bb Ally and “accessibility for everyone” at last year’s InstructureCon as well as during our Forum Series, and is now leading some intriguing research on around potential benefits of the HTML format. When talking to one of our newest members of the Blackboard Ally Community, it was interesting to learn about how they used Title II funding designated for faculty professional development to purchase Blackboard Ally, leveraging the in-depth tutorials and guidance in the instructor feedback to help build instructor awareness and skills around accessibility best practices. 

D2L Fusion: Welcoming new members to our Community

Having just announced our new integration with D2L Brightspace a week prior, we were all excited to make our way to Orlando for our first D2L Fusion conference. We joined D2L’s accessibility program manager, the dynamic Dr. Sam Chandrashekar, in the Accessibility Lab, where attendees saw Blackboard Ally demos and learned more about assistive technologies. To help D2L users just getting started on their inclusive learning journeys, during our presentation we shared stories from the Bb Ally Tour about how insitutions around the globe are rolling out Blackboard Ally on their campuses. And of course, we had to host a “Welcome to the Blackboard Ally Community” happy hour, where we brought in local music legend Alvin Giles to play some jams.    

New members of the Blackboard Ally Community jamming at D2L Fusion to tunes by Alvin Giles

On our way from Orlando to Austin for BbWorld, we stopped for a Tour visit at Chattahoochee Technical College just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, part of 22 technical colleges across the state using Blackboard Ally (Check out their Community Story with Pam Warren and Nikki Stubbs). Since implementing Blackboard Ally two years ago, Chattahoochee has seen a significant improvement in their overall accessibility score. Given the great work done by instructors and the team in making their content accessible, we focused the faculty workshop on the benefits of the different alternative formats, and how making qualitative improvements to their content, such as improving image descriptions and document structure can help ensure all students have access to high-quality content that works well with assistive technologies and on multiple devices. 

BbWorld: The Inclusion Van goes Viral  

If you were in Austin or following along on Twitter, then you likely saw the Inclusion Van make a surprise appearance at BbWorld. We had a blast taking photos of attendees hanging out in the van and hearing more from our Community about their own journeys to IncluCity. In the Blackboard Ally Lounge, our user experience designer Anne-Sophie De Baets stayed busy testing some of the  latest product improvements, like the Instructor-facing Course Report and the more prominent Alternative Formats icon. 

The team from Georgia Virtua’l Technical Connection join the Blackboard Ally team for a ride in the Inclusion Van

For the Inclusive Education track, there were a number of exciting Blackboard Ally and accessibility presentations, such as Texas Tech’s mission to “Get Your Gauge Up” and the University of South Carolina’s efforts to address the needs of students with “hidden disabilities.” During our student session, UC Berkeley graduate student Andrew Phuong shared his own journey as a student with disabilities, and how those experiences now inform his current research on “adaptive equity-oriented pedagogy.” We also joined Karen Duncan of Gaston College, who provided an in-depth look at how they are using the institutional report to tackle accessibility issues in high-enrollment courses through a systematic remediation and quality assurance process that includes screen reader testing by a student with a visual impairment. You can hear more about Karen’s work in the Tour video about data-informed decision making with the Institutional Report, and check out some of the presentation slides in this Blackboard Ally Community post.   

BbWorld was also the site for our first gathering of the North American Ally User Group, which convened for breakfast and joined virtually for a meeting of the European Ally User Group. The European group, under the inspiring leadership of Claire Gardner (University of Derby, UK) and Kristen McCartney-Bulmer (Northumbria University, UK), has been meeting monthly for over a year now, so it was a great opportunity for our North American users to learn more about what’s been happening across the Atlantic, as well as connect with others interested in User Group collaboration. The next meeting of the North American Ally User Group will be hosted by Casey Eubank of WSU Tech at 12PM EST on August 21st. You can find meeting details and contribute to the agenda in this Google Doc.

Bb World attendees convene the first meeting of the North American Ally User Group and join the monthly European Ally User Group call.

The BB Ally Tour Heads Down Under

There’s no rest for the weary on the Bb Ally Tour, as we prepare to embark on the Asia-Pacific leg of the journey, beginning at the Blackboard Teaching and Learning ANZ conference in Sydney, Australia on August 20th. We’re looking forward to learning more about inclusive education from our Community heroes in Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, as well as sharing what we’ve learned on our journey so far through the US and Europe. You can keep up with all the latest adventures in the Inclusion Van on the Bb Ally Tour 2019 community space as well as on Twitter at #BbAllyTour2019